Game Eight: Princeton — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Penn kept its Ivy title hopes alive with a 28-21 victory at Princeton on Saturday (see recap). Billy Ragone led another game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, while the defense kept the Quakers in the game, forcing four turnovers on the day. The Red and Blue are still tied with Harvard for first place in the league. They face the Crimson — who beat Columbia, 69-0, on Saturday — next weekend at Franklin Field.

THE GOOD: The running game. Penn had its best ground game of the season with 211 rushing yards on 47 attempts, significantly more than the season average of 132.9 yards. Lyle Marsh led the way with 104 net yards on the ground, followed by Billy Ragone with 61 and Jeff Jack with 50. Ragone and Jack each had a rushing touchdown on the day.

THE BAD: Penn's pass rush. Penn had just one sack on Princeton's two quarterbacks. Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly threw for 319 yards combined and often had plenty of time to find an open receiver. After Saturday's game, Penn has just 11 sacks on the season, second-worst in the Ivy League.

THE UGLY: Penn students' attempt to rush the field. Penn Athletics arranged for buses to bring students to the game, and many Greek organizations organized their own transportation, so the stands were packed with Penn students. As the clock ran out and the Quakers sealed their 28-21 victory over Princeton, there was a pathetic attempt to rush the field. No more than 20 students participated, and everything quickly fell apart as the students ran into the masses of players meeting in the middle of the field to shake hands.

Liveblog: Penn football at Princeton

I'm at Princeton Stadium with Anna Strong and John Phillips. With Penn, Princeton and Harvard tied for first place in the Ivy League, the Quakers' matchup with the Tigers has title implications for the first time since 2005. Penn ( 3-4, 3-1 Ivy) has won its last five games against Princeton (4-3, 3-1), but the Tigers are certainly a different team this year. Follow all the action here:

Turn Back the Clock: Oct. 17, 1936

Penn Football shuts out Princeton, 7-0
October 17, 1936

60 years after their first meeting, Penn shut out Princeton in a one-touchdown matchup.

This solo touchdown was achieved on a 57-yard punt return by team captain Lew Elverson, a member of the mid to late-1930's single-wing "Destiny Backfield."

The night before the game, there was a rally in the Quad, where the players pumped up the huge crowd that had gathered, according to E. Craig Sweeten (W'37) in a Penn Gazette interview.

Many years later the football alums from the class of 1937 presented the game ball, which read the final game score, in addition to other game and team memorabilia for a display on the fifth floor of Van Pelt.

Though Princeton was held scoreless in this mid-October matchup, the Tigers came close to catching the Quakers on multiple occasions.

Continue reading

Liveblog: Penn football vs. Columbia

The Quakers take on Columbia at Franklin Field looking to stay undefeated in the Ivy League. Follow along with all the action here:

Three Up, Three Down: Columbia Edition

Last week’s predictions were hit and miss. We definitely got a heavy dose of short passes last week, but we did not see as much from Andrew Holland as expected. No QBs in this week’s list though:

Three Up-

Scott Lopano:  This one’s more of a no-brainer than you might think.  Lopano ranks seventh in the nation  in punting average with 43.9 yards per punt this year, including two over 50 yards.  He has pinned eight of his 18 punts inside the 20-yard line.  If Lopano is able to routinely pin Columbia’s anemic offense  deep in its own territory, it could be lights out for the Lions pretty quickly.

Ryan Mitchell: With Joe Holder out for the year and Conner Scott routinely drawing double coverages, look for Mitchell to get more touches in the passing game. Mitchell currently ranks fourth on the team in receiving yards and is tied for fourth in receptions with Holder. Columbia ranks sixth in passing defense and seventh in passing defense efficiency, so you’d expect Mitchell to take on a more prominent role against the Lions this week.

Sebastian Jaskowski: Jaskowski leads all Ivy defensive backs in tackles and ranks sixth in tackles overall.  He’s been a steady hand in what has often been a shaky secondary this season, and it’s hard to imagine him getting burned much by the worst passing offense in the conference.

Three Down-

Pass protection:  The Lions have three players with at least two sacks this year, led by 2010 and 2011 All-Ivy senior defensive end Josh Martin. Columbia ranks third in the Ivy League in sacks, and Penn allowed four sacks last week to William & Mary. One of the few feasible ways Columbia can pull off the upset is to get consistent pressure from up front on Ragone and benefit from resulting turnovers.

Lyle Marsh as a receiver: Offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin told me this week that he wants to see more downfield success in the passing game in addition to the high-percentage throws Ragone seems most comfortable throwing.  This game is the perfect opportunity to hook up with receivers who can extend the field like Conner Scott, but it might mean less touches for Marsh as a receiver.  William & Mary blitzed often last week, making Marsh a great safety valve for Ragone to throw to. (Marsh had eight receptions for 47 yards.)  But seven of Columbia’s 11 sacks this season have come from the defensive line, suggesting that the Lions may not have to blitz so much to get pressure.  With Penn potentially looking downfield more and Columbia not likely to sell out with the blitz, Marsh’s value as a receiver diminishes.

Kick returners:  Dan Wilk and Dexter Davis may not get a lot of kickoffs to return because the odds are that the Lions won’t be scoring very much.  In this case, kick returners being down means the rest of the team is up.


WR Joe Holder breaks fibula in William & Mary game

Update (Sun, Oct. 7, 10:20 PM): Holder told me it's actually his fibula that is broken, not the tibia. A broken tibia would mean no chance of a comeback, but a fibula break gives him a chance at a comeback. - Megan Soisson

Penn wide receiver Joe Holder broke his tibia in Saturday's 34-28 loss to William & Mary, and he's likely out for the season.

Early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Andrew Holland launched a pass intended for Holder, but the pass went wide and Holder went down on the play. He hobbled off the field and did not return to the game.

Al Bagnoli announced in the postgame press conference that he broke his ankle, but in fact Holder broke his tibia.

Holder stayed confident though, and tweeted this after the game:

Liveblog: Penn football vs. William & Mary

The Quakers face their final non-conference opponent of the season, William & Mary, at Franklin Field. Follow along with the action below:

Liveblog: Penn football at Dartmouth

The Quakers kick off the Ivy season against the Big Green in Hanover, N.H. It should be a close game, as each matchup between these teams in the past three seasons has come down to the final possession. Follow all the action here:

Three Up, Three Down: The Dartmouth Edition

We're excited to have a new segment on The Buzz called Three Up, Three Down, in which we predict three players whose stock will rise and fall over the course of upcoming games.

Look for the following threesome to be thriving after Penn's Ivy opener at Dartmouth on Saturday:

Three Up —

Billy Ragone: Quite simply, this is Ragone’s time. He found his groove in Dartmouth’s backyard last year after a slow start, and it would be no coincidence if he were to do it again Saturday. The Big Green ranked dead last in the Ivy League in rushing defense a year ago, and they can be expected to once again set Ragone up to tuck and run. That usually translates into a more confident aerial attack from him.

Continue reading

Coaching rivalry? More like best buds

Penn football coach Al Bagnoli and Villanova coach Andy Talley go way back.

From scrimmages during their coaching days back at Union College and St. Lawrence, respectively, which date back to the late 70s and early 80s, a friendship grew and has remained over the past 30 years.

The two coaches, both of whom have over 200 career wins, will be taking each other on this weekend at the Penn home opener (see preview).

Below is what they had to say about their relationship and coaching against each other in the context of Saturday's game:


“When I got down here he was one of the first guys that reached out and showed me the way around Philly and suggested some things. We’ve had a long friendship. His main objective is to win the CAA and go to the postseason, while our main objective is to win the Ivy League championship. Now for those three hours, we’re actually in mortal combat, but once you get out of those three hours, we play golf together on occasions, we have dinner on occasions, we see each other every Wednesday at press conferences, we see each other at social functions, so I consider him a good friend of mine. If they were in the Ivy League, it would be completely different. Just the league dynamics.”


— Penn Gazette Sports

"Penn-Villanova has turned into a great rivalry game. The coaches and players on both teams know each other well so that adds to the game in a positive way.


"Al and I have been friends for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him. He is a great football coach with an incredible coaching resume. He has done a phenomenal job throughout his career at Penn.


"Penn is always one of the best-coached teams we play. Playing at Franklin Field presents a big challenge due to the fact that Penn has always done a great job of protecting its home field. Penn is routinely tough against the run so their run defense will present us with a lot of challenges. I fully expect another 60-minute battle that will more than likely come down to the final few plays of the game."